By Ted Waddell
HANCOCK May 30, 2006 In the continuing grassroots effort to fight a 190-mile-long series of high-voltage direct current (HVDC) electric transmission lines from being constructed along a route through Sullivan County, the Upper Delaware Preservation Coalition (UDPC) held its second public meeting Thursday night at Hancock Central School.
Previously, New York Regional Interconnect (NYRI) has held seven informational meetings in communities along the proposed HVDC corridor, while the UDPC recently conducted its first forum in Lackawaxen, Pa.
An estimated 200 people attended UDPC's second public meeting, during which, for the first time, calls of civil disobedience were voiced from the audience if state/federal approval is granted for the project.
"I'll chain myself to my trees, and they can arrest me," said one member of the audience, who later asked that his name not be used in the media.
Taking the lead in presenting UDPC's objections to the privately-owned company's plans to build the transmission line system was Troy Bystrom, one of the organization's founders and lead investigator into the inner workings and financial connections of NYRI.
"They just sit there and hum all the time," he said of the HVDC lines reported decibel ratings of 40-50 dbs.
In the aftermath of announced plans by Millennium Pipeline to take over existing Columbia Gas Company natural gas lines, and increase the 12-inch lines to 30-inch lines, Bystrom said there are concerns about published reports that indicate ground currents created by high-voltage transmission lines can cause internal corrosion within nearby gas lines.
"It's proven that electric companies can make more money from transmitting power than building new generation facilities," said Bystrom in response to questions about why new lines were needed, while existing generation systems could be upgraded.
UDPC said by the end of June they hope to raise $250,000 for the legal fight against NYRI.
To date, they have taken in about $30,000 in donations, including $300 from a bake sale last weekend.
"Our lifestyle means nothing to them," said Jeff Moore, one of UDPCs founders who helped lead the fight against Pegasus Company, whose president of record now serves as head of NYRI.
Bystrom said that last week UDPC started sending out "action alerts" to keep concerned citizens up-to-date on the NYRI project and efforts to halt it.
"We live here, and we need to get involved," he said.
UDPC founder Pat Carullo said in an effort to determine exactly where NYRIs "preferred" route impacts the federally protected Upper Delaware River Valley, the National Park Service (NPS) began this week to conduct GIS studies which will be followed up next week by ground surveys.
Several people said they have written to U.S. senators Charles E. Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton but never got a reply.
"I haven't heard a peep from Hillary," said one upset member of the audience.
On Wednesday, May 24, Bill Douglass, executive director of the Upper Delaware Council (UDC) and David Forney, NPS superintendent of the Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River, attended a meeting in Albany at the invitation of NYS Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther.
Also in attendance at the meeting with Assemblyman Paul Tonko, chairman of the Assembly's energy committee, were UDC Chair Charlie Wieland, UDC staffer Laurie Ramie and Assembly aides.
"We talked about the issues that may be coming up," said Douglass. "Until the actual filing is made by NYRI [to the NYS Public Service Commission], we don't have all facts that we need. They haven't shown all their cards yet.
"Even when the thing's filed, we may not have all the facts we're going to need down the road," he added. "NYRI does have the opportunity to change the routes, perhaps based on what the public may suggest they go around in different ways."
From the perspective of having attended five NYRI meetings and both UDPC forums, Douglass said, "I've only seen one person stand up and be in favor of this. . . . He stood up in Callicoon and expressed his opinion. Everybody else I've talked to is very concerned and very afraid of what is still an unknown."
At the Callicoon meeting, NYRI representatives stated publicly they had the right to take private property (by a privately owned company) by right of eminent domain.
"I want to see it in writing to be sure. . . . Without that right of eminent domain, I don't think they would be able to complete this project, and they wouldn't have come this far if they didn't have the right of eminent domain. . . . They wouldn't be spending the money they're spending if they didn't feel they had that right."
Laura Moran lives in Callicoon and is the adult program coordinator for the Western Sullivan Public Library.
"The pipeline [the NYRI-proposed route calls for running the HVDC lines along sections of the gas line right-of-way] is less than a mile from our house, and we own 38 acres, but as the crow flies it would go a mile straight through," she said.
"But with our friends, it's about 500 feet from their house," added Moran.
The other day, Moran talked with her with her 12-year-old daughter Corinna about the NYRI project.
Breaking down in tears, Moran said her daughter replied, "Mommy, I don't want to be riding the [school] bus one day and go past one of those towers and say, 'That's where my friend used to live'."